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JOHNSTON: Mad Max has abandoned his libertarian ideals, leaving some politically homeless

If a commitment to drug policy reform is a litmus test for libertarianism, the PPC has failed to establish its bonafides — and is now shedding a small but valuable activist base.




Before its most recent incarnation, the Western Standard was nothing more than a Facebook page with 222 followers, reduced from its former glory as a national news magazine. Just a month after refounding, we’re closing in on a readership that rivals many major metropolitan papers. In May of 2017, I posted an article prior to the Conservative leadership race – which almost nobody read – on the old Western Standard Facebook page asking, “Where do the Conservative Party leadership candidates stand on marijuana legalization?”

The question mattered then and still matters now as by some accounts the Conservatives lost the last two elections because they were unable to pick up millennial votes, a large and growing constituency. While the vast majority of Canadians disagree with the Conservative opposition to even modest marijuana policy reforms, millennial voters have actually made this a ballot box issue in both Canada and the US.

The short answer to this question is that none of the candidates in the Conservative leadership race were the least bit inclined to support meaningful marijuana policy reforms, except for Maxime Bernier, or so it was suggested.

In 2015, Marc Emery, Canada’s leading marijuana legalization activist, rallied his supporters to vote for the Trudeau Liberals. In 2017, he shifted his support to Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier and then followed Bernier to the upstart People’s Party of Canada (PPC) in 2018.

Marc Emery (left) at 2017 CPC leadership convention (Photo credit: Matthew Johnston)

Bernier was quiet on marijuana legalization over the course of the leadership race, although he did signal his support for the idea in principle and said he was taking a wait-and-see attitude with respect to whatever legislation finally came before the House. When the bill did come before the House for a final vote in June of 2017, the only Conservative MP to vote in favour of it was Scott Reid. Reid got support for his dissenting vote in a Tweet from current Western Standard Publisher Derek Fildebrandt, then the lone Wildrose or PC MLA to openly support legalization.

Source: Twitter

People like Marc Emery were prepared to give Bernier the benefit of the doubt on this vote and his overall silence on this issue. There is, after all, a lot wrong with Trudeau’s approach to marijuana legalization. But Bernier has still not publicly identified the weaknesses in the legalization framework or offered suggestions on how to improve it. 

After Bernier left the CPC to start the PPC, libertarians who supported his leadership, and senior activists in the Libertarian Party, quickly joined. Their expectation was that, freed from the shackles of the CPC, Bernier would pursue a moderate libertarian agenda with a real chance of electing candidates. Part of this moderate libertarian agenda would be a bold position on marijuana legalization, or so was the expectation. But not only did marijuana legalization not become a campaign issue for the PPC, the party took a hard right turn that puzzled people who had followed Bernier’s career for over a decade.

Adam Richardson, former Atlantic Canada organizer for the PPC, attempted to put marijuana policy reforms on the agenda during the height of media discussions over the enactment of Canada’s new marijuana laws. In an interview with the Western Standard, Richardson explained his thinking: “I thought support for cannabis legalization would differentiate Max from Andrew Scheer and appeal to young voters with little downside. Sure, many older conservative voters are not keen on cannabis legalization, but support for the status quo was very low, estimated at about 10% according to a Fraser Institute study. This was a very clear opportunity to appeal to average Canadian voters that let their vote swing based on issues… many who voted Conservative in the past but switch to Trudeau in 2015. A solid free market cannabis policy would have strong appeal to this large block of Canadian voters.”

Former PPC advisor Adam Richardson proposes marijuana policy

In an email exchange between Richardson and PPC senior advisor Martin Masse, released to the Western Standard, it is clear that neither Masse nor Bernier wanted to touch this issue.

PPC senior policy advisor Martin Masse says “wait” to marijuana policy proposal

For Richardson, opposition to marijuana policy reform, or an unwillingness to address the issue, was evidence enough that Bernier was not serious about redefining what it means to be a limited-government conservative in a socially progressive Canada. He told the Western Standard that “it was becoming clear to me that the messaging was not about a broad appeal to average Canadian voters, but rather to only take hard line positions that would draw from the traditional Conservative party base. I was not interested in being involved with a party whose main objective was just to cause another party to lose.” According to Richardson, there was no obvious strategy to build a mainstream, principled alternative to the CPC and the Liberal Party that might appeal to swing voters. He soon after resigned his volunteer position with the Party. Richardson has been a leading political organizer in Atlantic Canada since the days of the Reform Party and served as Atlantic Advisor to both Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day.

Surprisingly, Marc Emery, who served most of a five year sentence in a US prison for selling marijuana seeds, is not particularly bothered by Bernier silence on marijuana policy reform. In an interview with the Western Standard, Emery said “Masse just told Max to stay away from drug policy.” He added that “I like that Max let each PPC candidate articulate their own view on drug policy. I advised many candidates and Max never interfered. I admire that.” Emery added that he remains committed to the PPC and would be willing to run as a candidate in the next federal election.

Trevor Schmidt is less forgiving of the direction the PPC headed during the campaign and of Bernier’s betrayal of “libertarian-leaning policy ideas”. In an interview with the Western Standard, Schmidt said “A lot of libertarians like myself felt disenfranchised by Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives or didn’t see an opportunity for a break-through with the Libertarian Party and were attracted to Mad Max and the PPC.” Schmidt went on to say “I think libertarians grew disaffected by the PPC not just because the campaign messaging strayed from small government values, but because many people recognized the PPC had adopted a losing strategy.”

Schmidt was the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Canada and resigned before the federal election to join the PPC as a Calgary Electoral District Association coordinator. He laments the fact that the failure of the PPC to represent libertarian ideas means “Canadian libertarians of all stripes get to look forward to rebuilding their infrastructure again from the ground up, wherever they settle politically.”

Clinton Desveaux, former Executive Director of the PPC, says “the 28,000 members, who initially joined the PPC for free, now have expired memberships” and he is not convinced a sizeable portion will renew now that “the party has zero representation in the House of Commons.” Desveaux counts himself among the dissatisfied libertarians.

If a commitment to drug policy reform is a litmus test for libertarianism, the PPC has failed to establish its libertarian bonafides — and is now shedding a small but valuable activist base. If the party survives going forward, it will do so only with the support of those who oppose high levels of immigration and what is called the globalist agenda, meaning interference by the United Nations in Canadian domestic affairs. This has left many pragmatic libertarians without a political home.


WAGNER: Alberta’s social conservatives should be afraid of an NDP return to power

When it comes to education policy in Alberta, the NDP is adamant that only one view of sexuality will be represented – and it’s not the traditional Christian view – even in schools that were founded with a specifically Christian purpose.




The increasing possibility of a NDP electoral victory in 2023 should keep conservatives in Alberta awake at night. Much will be at stake if the ‘progressives’ come back to power.

Social conservatives in particular have a lot to lose, especially with regards to education policy. One of the most acrimonious issues during the NDP’s term in government concerned gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in schools. Most noteworthy, a number of private religious schools were on the verge of losing their government funding and accreditation for failing to explicitly embrace GSAs within their school policies. Only the election of Jason Kenney’s UCP saved these schools. On this file, the NDP is likely to pick up where it left off once back in office.

Discussions of this issue have been fraught with misinformation. The NDP and its supporters have portrayed their GSA policies as the one and only way to keep vulnerable students safe in schools. Thus, they imply, anyone with a different view is malevolent, is homophobic, and obviously wants to hurt kids. There’s a strict binary choice at work in the messaging: endorse the NDP’s solution or be labelled a very nasty person. There’s no other possibility. Most of the mainstream media has followed this NDP talking point to the letter.

The fact is, though, private Christian schools are formed and maintained only at great sacrifice by those involved. The parents pay extra fees to have their children attend these schools, and school employees often take lower salaries in order to serve in a religious educational mission. These are people who are making extra sacrifices — often at great personal cost — because they believe a particularly religious environment is what’s best for their children. The idea that they do all this and yet want to hurt kids is absurd.

But according to NDP propagandists, private schools with openly Christian statements on the nature of marriage and sexuality are harmful to vulnerable children. This was the basis of their demand to remove Christian doctrinal statements from school policies. Naturally, such doctrinal positions did not align with many of the social-justice identity politics of the NDP’s ideological makeup. Thus, they had to be forcibly removed.

When it comes to education policy in Alberta, the NDP is adamant that only one view of sexuality will be represented — and it’s not the traditional Christian view — even in schools that were founded with a specifically Christian purpose. The message was explicit: conform to the NDP’s ideology, or close. No diversity of opinion allowed.

As Donna Trimble put it so well at the time: “These schools have two choices. One is they strip their schools of any faith-based perspectives in their safe and caring policies in order to satisfy the government’s demands, and then they are giving up the very foundation and reason for their existence, or, two, they are shut down for their refusal to do so.”

And as Calgary Herald columnist Licia Corbella added, “Perhaps that’s the NDP’s ultimate goal? No choice, no diversity. Just NDP beliefs taught in Alberta.”

Of course, Jason Kenney put an end to the imposition of NDP ideology onto private Christian schools once he took power by passing Bill 8 — the Education Amendment Act — which rolled back the most authoritarian aspects of the NDP’s GSA program.

However, there were other facets to the GSA issue that he left in place, contrary to the wishes of many UCP members. At the UCP convention in Red Deer in May 2018, 57% of delegates voted in favour of parents being notified if their children joined a GSA. But Kenney opposed the resolution and said, “Guess what, I’m the leader. I get to interpret the resolution and its relevance to party policy…I hold the pen.” It did not become policy.

Some parental rights activists have not given up on this issue, however. One group, Bill 10 Court Challenge Organization, has continued to lobby UCP MLAs to strengthen parental notification provisions. It also promotes a petition encouraging the government to amend legislation so that children under 16 must obtain parental permission to join a GSA.

If and when the NDP comes back into power, the GSA issue will once again become front-page news. The acrimony of the NDP’s previous term will return with a vengeance — not because kids are being harmed — but because the NDP cannot tolerate any private Christian schools upholding a traditional perspective on sexuality. Ideological conformity is a central principle of “progressive” thought. This time, the non-government schools will not escape defunding and loss of accreditation.

With most of the mainstream media cheerleading the NDP on this issue as before, social conservatives will again be widely portrayed as sinister throwbacks of the Dark Ages, and their influence in Alberta society will decline even further. The election of an NDP government will not be pleasant for any segments of the province’s conservative/libertarian coalition, but the social conservatives have the most to lose.

Looking towards 2023, it seems like darkness is approaching.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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SELICK: AHS says it has no documents for its policy of disregarding natural immunity

The firefighters believe once they’ve recovered from COVID-19, they’ve got broad and long-lasting immunity — possibly even superior to that imparted by the vaccine.




Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have long been a useful tool for journalists, lawyers, and ordinary citizens to gain access to documents the government might prefer them not to see. 

Sometimes, however, there is even greater value in finding out the government doesn’t have a single document in its possession to back up what it’s doing. 

A case in point is the recent FOI request sent to Alberta Health Services by lawyer Derek From. From is counsel for several Alberta firefighters and paramedics who wish to decline, for various reasons, mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. Their application challenging the constitutionality of Alberta Health Services (AHS) policy will be filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench imminently. 

Some of the firefighters have already acquired natural immunity to COVID-19 by virtue of having been sick with the illness and then recovering from it. However, the AHS document entitled Immunization of Workers for COVID-19 Policy 1189, makes no reference whatsoever to individuals with this medical history. Like everyone else, they are required to be “fully vaccinated” by November 30 or lose their jobs. 

The firefighters believe once they’ve recovered from COVID-19, they’ve got broad and long-lasting immunity — possibly even superior to that imparted by the vaccine. They’re therefore extremely unlikely to get COVID-19 again for a long time, and consequently wouldn’t be able to spread it to anyone else. They argue they’ve never seen any evidence indicating an unvaccinated person who has recovered from COVID-19 can actually spread the virus. 

Therefore, they wanted to know exactly what evidence AHS relied upon when preparing its policy. AHS seemed to presume people with natural immunity could pose a danger to others, but did it have any facts to back up that presumption? 

Lawyer From submitted a Freedom of Information request on November 21 asking for “all records of the scientific evidence that AHS relied upon in the development of the policy.” 

The answer came back within a few days: after conducting a comprehensive search, AHS could find no such records in its possession. 

There must be thousands of Albertans by now who are in the same position as the firefighters, having recovered from COVID-19. AHS has never even investigated whether there’s any need for them to be vaccinated. It appears to be oblivious to their condition, their concerns and their wellbeing. 

What’s worse is emerging evidence shows people who’ve developed natural immunity are more likely than other people to experience adverse reactions to vaccination, just as vaccinated individuals are more likely to experience adverse reactions after two doses than after one. The AHS policy of mandatory vaccination therefore puts those with natural immunity at greater risk than the rest of the population, when they are in fact the people who pose the least threat to others. 

It must be apparent to AHS executives that their policy arguably infringes on the constitutional rights of individuals to life, liberty and security of the person under Sec. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They must know they will be called upon eventually to justify their policy under Sec. 1 of the Charter — in other words, to show the policy is “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

But their cupboard is bare. They don’t possess a single document showing the necessity of vaccinating people who have natural immunity, if their response to the Freedom of Information request can be believed. 

In other words, the policy is a huge bluff on the part of AHS — a despicable pantomime acted out for some unknown purpose, that will wreak havoc on the lives of thousands of Albertans as they scramble to replace their jobs and income, and simultaneously to bring their constitutional challenges before the courts. AHS displays shocking arrogance in continuing to inflict such burdens on the province’s residents when it must know that the policy will likely, eventually, be found unconstitutional.

The AHS is headed up by Chief Executive Officer Dr. Verna Yui, who reports to a board, which in turn is governed by the Alberta Ministry of Health. They proclaim their values include compassion, accountability, respect, excellence and safety. 

In my view, they are failing on several counts. 

Fire them all. 

Karen Selick is a columnist for the Western Standard

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SLOBODIAN: Wokism tarnishes Sally Ann’s trusted image

Yet, by singling out white donors, the Salvation Army appears to have embraced the racism it denounces.




The Salvation Army foolishly thrust itself into the intolerant world of woke when it issued a blanket call for apologies and repentance from allegedly racist whites.

In what appears to have been an attempt to appease the destructive radical woke crowd, the Salvation Army tarnished its trusted image. What a shame.

On the heels of a swift backlash, the Salvation Army retreated from, or is at least rethinking, its push to promote anti-racist and critical race theory that points an accusing finger at white donors.

On one hand, the Salvation Army “denounces racism in all forms” and has operated on that principle since it was founded by William Booth in 1865.

Yet, by singling out white donors, the Salvation Army appears to have embraced the racism it denounces.

In its global guidebook entitled Let’s Talk About Racism, the Christian charity urged white donors to “lament, repent, and apologize for biases or racist ideologies held and actions committed.

“In the absence of making anti-racist choices, we consciously uphold aspects of white supremacy, white-dominant culture, and unequal institutions and society,” the document states.

The Salvation Army asked white people to think about how they’ve “consciously or unconsciously” supported prejudices against racial minorities and “acknowledged with regret, that Salvationists have sometimes shared in the sins of racism and conformed to economic, organizational, and social pressures that perpetuate racism.”

In another document, entitled Study Guide on Racism, the Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission, said white people are guilty of “unconscious bias” and “unwittingly perpetuate racial division” even if they don’t overtly show it.

“We must stop denying the existence of individual and systemic/institutional racism. They exist and are still at work to keep white Americans in power.”

You’d think the Salvation Army was responding to droves of white people writing cheques or shoving bills and coins into the Red Kettles while stipulating their charitable donations must aid whites only.

Of course, that doesn’t happen.

The Salvation Army appears to have been duped, or bullied, by woke radicals. It even adopted their language.

Wokism, despite pious proclamations that claim to fight for race, gender and sexual injustice, is a nasty thing based on hardcore Marxist ideology.

In reality, it is intolerant, venomous, and strives to crush anyone who disagrees with what it promotes. It has a particular distaste for Christians.

The woke radicals don’t care the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign alone supports 2.1 million people in 400 Canadian communities, or that the organization serves 128 countries and preaches the gospel in 175 different languages.

Or that volunteers, many of them white, manning the kettles for hours on end, do so out of colour-blind love.

The outcry against the Salvation Army’s guidelines was fierce.

It prompted a statement from the American arm of the organization denying it is peddling woke messaging and critical race theory.

“The guide ‘Let’s Talk About Racism,’ was issued as a voluntary resource, but it has since become a focus of controversy. We have done our best to provide accurate information, but unfortunately, some have chosen to ignore those efforts. At the same time, international headquarters realized that certain aspects of the guide may need to be clarified.”

It said claims the Salvation Army believes donors should apologize for their skin colour and that the organization has abandoned its Christian faith are “simply false and they distort the very goal of our work.”

The International Social Justice Commission “has now withdrawn the guide for appropriate review,” said the statement.

The Study Guide on Racism wasn’t even mentioned.

“The Salvation Army’s beliefs are, and have always been, rooted in scripture. That includes our complete rejection of racism, which is in stark contrast to the biblical principle that we’re all created in the image of God,” Maj. Jamie Locke, secretary of public relations with Alberta and Northern Territories Division, told theWestern Standard.

“The Salvation Army believes that the world is enriched by a diversity of cultures and ethnicities, and we are committed to working towards a world where all people are accepted, loved, and valued. We serve all without discrimination, and we respect and value the unique views and beliefs of our employees, volunteers, and donors.”

The Salvation Army has always been a rock in this world, often the first on the scene in a crisis, reaching out to pick up the fallen and discarded, an organization founded on strong Christian principles carried out with love.

It is a beacon of light and all that is good and noble.

It’s tough to criticize the Salvation Army.

But the fault lies in the message delivered, not false interpretations of what it clearly stated.

When you target a particular skin colour that’s racism, even in today’s climate where piling on white people is in vogue.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

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